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Emmanuel, Shanahan, Bieniemy lead Colorado ties to Super Bowl LIV

49ers have a whopping 17 connections to Colorado or the Broncos while the Chiefs have six.
Credit: AP Images

DENVER — Any one who watched the San Francisco 49ers dominate the Broncos during joint practices held at UCHealth Training Center in August and the Kansas City Chiefs clobber the Broncos by a combined 53-9 in two regular season games knows Denver was a long ways from Super Bowl-caliber in 2019.

However, there are many strong local ties with Super Bowl LIV, especially with the 49ers.

A look at the Denver-Colorado-Broncos connections to Super Bowl LIV that will be played February 2 in Miami:

San Francisco 49ers  

Emmanuel Sanders 

Starting Receiver

A Broncos’ fan favorite from the time he was signed to a three-year, $15 million contract from free agency in 2014 until he was dealt, along with a fifth-round draft pick, at the trading deadline October 22 to the 49ers in return for third- and fourth-round draft selections.

Sanders best season with the Broncos was his first when he had 101 catches for 1,404 yards and 9 touchdowns in 2014.

But “wide receiver heaven” as Sanders deemed the Broncos at his Denver introductory press conference became pass-catching purgatory after Peyton Manning retired following the Broncos’ Super Bowl 50 season of 2015 and his replacement Trevor Siemian suffered his second shoulder injury in 2017.

Credit: AP
San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders (17) reacts during the first half of an NFL football game against the Seattle Seahawks in Santa Clara, Calif., Monday, Nov. 11, 2019. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

Kyle Shanahan 

Head Coach

As a coach’s kid, Kyle lived in the Denver area from the time he was 4 to 8-years old, again from 10 to 12-years  old, and finally from 15 years old until he was 23 when he became a graduate coaching assistant for Karl Dorrell at UCLA. He attended Cherry Creek, which won the Class 5A state football championships in his sophomore (1995) and junior (1996) years.

Kyle held the cords to his father’s headsets on game days during his senior fall season of 1997, when dad Mike Shanahan coached the Broncos to their first Super Bowl title.

Kyle was about to become the Texas Longhorns’ No. 3 receiver as a junior in 2001, when just prior to training camp he impaled his thigh while trying to jump over his parents’ backyard fence during what was supposed to be a dog walk.

Credit: AP
San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan, right, and general manager John Lynch field questions during the NFL team's football training camp Thursday, July 27, 2017, in Santa Clara, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

John Lynch 

General Manager

A four-year Pro Bowl safety for the Broncos from 2004-07, Lynch and his family stayed in the Denver-area until he took the 49ers job in 2017.

John and his wife Linda have endowed $1.03 million worth of college scholarships to Colorado students through the John Lynch Foundation. And here's the kicker: Even though John and Linda are all in with San Francisco, they continue to award $96,000 annually in scholarships to Colorado student-athletes.

Credit: AP Photo/David Zalubowski
John Lynch during their AFC divisional playoff football game against the new England Patriots Saturday, Jan. 14, 2006 in Denver.

Ben Garland 

Starting Center

One of the NFL’s best stories, no team, not even the Broncos, thought Garland was a pro prospect after his four-year career as a defensive lineman for the Air Force Falcons ended following the 2009 season.

The Broncos signed Garland, who grew up in Grand Junction, as an undrafted rookie essentially as a nice PR move in 2010. He then served his two-year military commitment, before he was signed to the Broncos’ practice squads as a guard in 2012 and 2013.

Rewarded for his hustle and practice determination in 2014, he played in that season’s final eight games, mostly as a special teamer, but then was released prior to the setting of the 2015 season-opening roster.

He caught on with the Falcons’ practice squad in 2015, played some defensive tackle and guard in 2016, and started three games at guard for offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan in 2017.

He followed Shanahan to the 49ers last spring and replaced the injured Weston Richburg as their starting center in week 15.

Garland will be the 49ers’ starting center in Super Bowl LIV.

Credit: AP Photo/Rick Scuteri
Ben Garland during the first half of an NFL football game against the Arizona Cardinals, Thursday, Oct. 31, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz.

Bobby Turner

Running Backs Coach

Served 15 years in the same position for the Broncos during their zone-block/one-cut rushing heyday – the first 14 seasons under head coach Mike Shanahan.

Six Broncos running backs – Terrell Davis (four times), Tatum Bell, Reuben Droughns, Clinton Portis (twice), Mike Anderson (twice) and Olandis Gary – had 1,000-yard seasons under Turner.

He is the father-in-law of former Broncos’ offensive lineman Orlando Franklin.

Wes Welker

Receivers Coach

In 2013, when the Broncos became the most prolific offense in NFL history, Welker had 73 catches for 778 yards and 10 touchdowns. He added 49 more catches during a concussion-plagued 2014 season.

Credit: AP Photo/Jeff Chiu
San Francisco 49ers assistant coach Wes Welker at the team's NFL football headquarters in Santa Clara, Calif., Tuesday, June 4, 2019.

Jon Embree

Tight Ends/Assistant Head Coach

His father, John Embree, played two years for the Broncos in 1969-‘70. Jon Embree played at Cherry Creek High School before becoming a four-year tight end for the Colorado Buffaloes (1983-86).

Coached one year for Douglas County High School and 13 years in a variety of roles for his college alma mater in Boulder over three different stints, including as head coach in 2011-12, when he posted a 4-21 record.

In a rarity if not a Super Bowl first, Embree has sons coaching with both teams -- Taylor Embree is an offensive quality control coach for the 49ers and Connor is a defensive assistant for the Chiefs.

Credit: AP Photo/Josie Lepe
Kyle Shanahan, right, and assistant coach Jon Embree watch during the first half of an NFL football game against the Los Angeles Rams in Santa Clara, Calif., Sunday, Oct. 21, 2018.

Joe Woods

Defensive Backs Coach/Passing Game Defensive Coordinator

He was the Broncos’ secondary coach for the famed “No Fly Zone” in 2015-16, then became the team’s defensive coordinator under Vance Joseph in 2017-18.

RELATED: Browns ‘on track’ to hire 49ers coach Joe Woods as defensive coordinator, report says

John Benton 

Offensive Line Coach

Did you see the 49ers run the ball in their two playoff games? Mike Munchak has some work to do to regain his mantle as the NFL's top offensive line coach. Bention grew up in Durango and was a four-year starting offensive lineman for Leon Fuller at Colorado State. Also was a long-time offensive line coach and offensive coordinator for  Sonny Lubick at CSU.

Mike McDaniel

Run-Game Coordinator

Grew up in Greeley as a Broncos fan and is a former Broncos ball boy. He got his coaching start as a Broncos' intern in 2005, when Denver went 13-3 and reached the AFC Championship Game.

Weston Richburg

Center, Injured Reserve

A four-year starting center at Colorado State, where he helped former Broncos’ running back Kapri Bibbs and quarterback Garrett Grayson set school records. Richburg started the first 13 games for the 49ers this year until he suffered a season-ending torn patellar injury.

Ahkello Witherspoon 


Played three seasons at the University of Colorado, the final two as a starter. He had been 49ers’ starting cornerback this season until he was benched in their second-playoff game against the Vikings. He only played special teams in the NFC Championship Game on Sunday against Green Bay.

Credit: AP Photo/Ben Margot
Ahkello Witherspoon is introduced before an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Santa Clara, Calif., Sunday, Sept. 22, 2019.

Adam Peters 

Vice President of Player Personnel

What Matt Russell is to the Broncos’ John Elway, Peters is to the 49ers’ Lynch. Peters and Martin Mayhew share the VP of personnel title.

Peters worked eight years in the Broncos’ scouting department, moving up from regional scout to national scout to assistant director of college scouting to college scouting director.

Dustin Little

Head Athletic Trainer

The "Greek" of the 49ers, he mentored six seasons under Steve Antonopulos with the Broncos from 2013 until he was hired away by the 49ers a year ago.

Bobby Slowik

Offensive Assistant

Son of Bob Slowik, who was the Broncos’ secondary coach and defensive coordinator from 2005-08.

Chris Kiffin 

Pass-Rush Coach

Played four years of defensive tackle for Sonny Lubick’s Colorado State Rams from 2001-05.

Taylor Embree

Offensive Quality Control

Jon’s son, Taylor grew up in Denver, although he finished high school in Overland Park, Kansas.

RELATED: When is Super Bowl 2020: Date, time, performers and more

Credit: AP Photo/Chris O'Meara
Eric Bieniemy races for yardage against Notre Dame in the Jan. 1, 1990 Orange Bowl Classic in Miami.

Kansas City Chiefs 

Eric Bieniemy 

Offensive Coordinator

A four-year running back for Bill McCartney and the CU Buffs, he rushed 1,628 yards and 17 touchdowns during the school’s co-national championship season of 1990.

Coached at Thomas Jefferson High School in 2000, and CU from 2001-02. he became Jon Embree’s offensive coordinator in Colorado in 2011-12.

Credit: AP
Patrick Mahomes listens to offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, right, as he warms up for the team's NFL football game against the New England Patriots in Foxborough, Mass.

Mike Pennel 

Defensive Tackle

Grew up in Aurora and starred at Grandview High School, he played his final college season of 2013 at CSU-Pueblo.

Connor Embree 

Defensive Assistant

Born in Superior and spent much of his youth in the Boulder-area during a time when his father Jon Embree was a CU assistant coach. Yes, Jon Embree has sons on both teams.

Kyle Shurmur 

Practice Squad Quarterback

The son of new Broncos’ offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur.

Brad Gee and Cydney Ricker 

Public Relations Assistants

Both were former Broncos PR interns under Patrick Smyth. Ricker also graduated from the University of Colorado.

RELATED: 49ers' coach Katie Sowers will make history as the first woman and openly gay coach at the Super Bowl

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Credit: AP
San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan, center, and general manager John Lynch, right, celebrate during an interview with Terry Bradshaw, left, after the NFL NFC Championship football game against the Green Bay Packers Sunday, Jan. 19, 2020, in Santa Clara, Calif. The 49ers won 37-20 to advance to Super Bowl 54 against the Kansas City Chiefs. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)


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